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Initial grading work for Canmore-based Nordic spa approved

“I’m not trying to get in the way of development, but there’s dust and I can see this not being received well by the community. That’s what we have to look out for.”

CANMORE – Initial steps to make way for a potential Nordic spa on Silvertip Trail got a thumbs up from Canmore Planning Commission.

While the initial work on the excavation, stripping and grading of the property in anticipation of the spa can begin, a development approval for the Nordic spa has yet to be approved by Town staff, giving the possibility of the land being prepared for development but the property not getting approval to actually build on the site.

The commission added assurances to the conditions in the rare scenario a development permit for the Nordic spa construction doesn’t get approval, including a condition that would have the developer give a cost estimate and development security of 125 per cent for the estimated costs to remediate the site in case construction of the spa were not to move forward.

Commission member Brian Talbot said it was more typical to have the development permits done in unison as opposed to separately, adding it was “taking a step down the road and I don’t know where the road’s going.”

“I’m not trying to get in the way of development, but there’s dust and I can see this not being received well by the community,” he said.“That’s what we have to look out for.”

Chris Conner, a senior project manager with McElhanney who is representing Basecamp on the development, said the intent of having the excavation, stripping and grading go first was to take advantage of the short construction season in the Bow Valley.

The move would prepare the site for the development of the Nordic spa since there’s a “very limited window” for construction to take place due to the weather.

He said the excavation, stripping and grading is for about 40 per cent of the site and is expected to take about six weeks, operating between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

“This is private property and I think it’s a reasonable request of the developer to want to streamline their construction,” said commission member Florian Jungen. “The impact on the community we want to mitigate is we don’t want to leave an unsightly scar there for too long. … In my opinion, this is a reasonable request and I think we should be willing to accommodate reasonably to allow for construction sequencing and allow for the seasons we have in the Bow Valley.”

Commission member Shawn Kennedy echoed Jungen’s comments, noting weather isn’t “completely in the developer’s hands. It’s not completely in the Town’s hands and it is private land."

"It seems reasonable," he said.

The approval would allow for a potential future expansion of the site – MTN House owned by Basecamp that is the former Holiday Inn – to have saunas, spa amenities and outdoor pool areas.

Riley Weldon, a development officer with the Town, said the development permit for the Nordic spa was received in February and is being reviewed by staff.

The 1.44-hectare site includes the existing visitor accommodation, but the proposed Nordic spa is on 0.7 hectares and has an AltaLink transmission line. Conner said they’re in negotiations with AltaLink because of the transmission line.

The work will see trees cleared and the land stripped and graded. Since the site is next to the Lower Silvertip wildlife corridor, a staff report noted Canmore’s Municipal Development Plan requires an environmental impact study when it has authority to do so – but wasn’t necessary for excavation, stripping and grading – and proposals “have regard” for the 2012 BCEAG Wildlife Corridor and Habitat Patch Guidelines for the Bow Valley study.

The area had previously had an application for a land use bylaw amendment to the direct control district, but it was withdrawn in March. The amendment had proposed to add health, wellness and a resort spa facility to the district’s discretionary use.

“It’s a bit of a cart before the horse scenario,” said Tanya Foubert, one of two council representatives on the commission. “However, the way the bylaw is written, it does allow the grading and excavation in this type of work before the second development permit comes into effect or is approved.”

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